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  • KOIN 6 News

    Attorney: MultCo handout of tents and tarps is costly, ineffective

    By Jenna DemlLisa Balick,


    PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) — This coming week the Portland City Council is expected to vote on a new 3-year agreement with Multnomah County whether to continue funding the Joint Office of Homeless Services. But it’s not a done deal.

    One of the hot button issues is that the county keeps giving out tens of thousands of tents and tarps to the homeless at the same time the City of Portland is paying millions for removing them in clean-up efforts.

    Attorney John DiLorenzo sued the city on behalf of several disabled Portlanders and won the case where they claimed the city violated disability laws by allowing tents and tarps on sidewalks, blocking access.

    Last week DiLorenzo was back before the Portland City Council on the tents-and-tarps issue, noting the city is spending millions to get rid of the tents and tarps even as the county continues to hand them out.
    Portland attorney John DiLorenzo, June 16, 2024. (KOIN)

    He said Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services continuing to distribute over 6,500 tents and 24,000 tarps is in direct conflict with the city’s $26 million contract with biohazard removal company Rapid Response to clean up between 8,000 and 12,000 tents.

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    Multnomah County officials said they hand out the tents and tarps to help people, especially during winter weather. The county’s budget for next year includes more than $250,000 for more tents.

    While the county has claimed the tents and tarps effort is to provide aid during cold weather months and when there are not enough places for indoor shelter, DiLorenzo noted that not only have these supplies been given out year ’round, but shelter spaces are empty throughout the year.

    In essence, DiLorenzo believes Multnomah County is adding to the problem the City of Portland is supposed to clean up.

    On Sunday, DiLorenzo told KOIN 6 News the City of Portland should ask Multnomah County to pay for the tent cleanup work and get the county to spend the millions they’ve allocated for tents and tarps and put it toward indoor shelters.

    “I view that as similar to walking up the down escalator,” he said. “You get nowhere and you’re exhausted at the end of the day.”

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    “The idea was to bring people indoors, not encourage them to remain outdoors,” he added. “In fact, a tent policy that encourages people to remain outdoors is itself inhumane.”

    Thursday’s upcoming Portland City Council session will involve discussion around a three-year renewal of a program between the city and county on homelessness response. Should this renewal be approved, DiLorenzo believes the county will continue a “failed experiment” with the JOHS, further perpetuating the cycle of distribution and cleanup.

    “There is absolutely nothing in the agreement that curtails the county from adding to the problem by placing more tents and tarps onto the streets only for the city to clean them up,” he stated. “And so I believe that a requirement that the county adopt the same policy that the city has with respect to tents and tarp distribution should be a prerequisite for renewing the agreement.”

    Members of the public can sign up to testify at the City Council session to be held Thursday, June 20 at 9:30 a.m.

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